Favorite Snapshots of 2016

A few days past 2016, but some of my favorite shots from a year that kept me forcing to find the bright spots in the middle of struggle. 

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The Reason Behind Millennial Summer Nostalgica

Originally published on Huffpost on 7/27/2016

IMG_7900_2 (1)Being an adult with unavoidable responsibilities, the majority of summertime is spent at work with occasional PTO sprinkled throughout the season. Whenever I pass a group of children riding their bicycles home from the local pool while driving home from work, pangs of nostalgia hit me harder than a Buzzfeed article recapping the best pop songs of summer 1999.

My childhood summers look drastically different compared to what today’s children will one day fondly reflect on when they reach the age to be plagued by nostalgia. While I am one of those widely frowned upon millennial who could operate a computer before being able to double knot her shoelaces, being born in May of 1989 allowed me to enjoy an entire decade of life without being tethered to mobile and social technology.  
My twin-home backyard, only 10 feet by 10 feet, was an incubator of my creativity. My
Fisher-Price red and yellow ‘Super Sandbox’ served as a sanctuary where I sat for hours with plastic buckets and old pasta strainers making up stories. After brushing off the grains of sand that could always be felt for hours afterwards, I would close the foldable sides of the sandbox to convert the lid into a personal stage where I belted out The Little Mermaid and Annie songs until my parents told me to give our neighbors a reprieve from live entertainment.

691313796_tpWhen the heat became too much, my Little Tykes Paddling Pool (identical to the one in my Fisher Price Doll House), was set up ready to provide sweet relief with ice cold hose water. Throughout the summer, my mother repurposed empty ketchup bottles and over worn plastic cups as pool toys, along with the specially designated pool Barbie dolls.

Other days, after a sufficient amount of soapy, bubble mix had drenched my clothes and coated my fingers while trying to fish out the thin, not-quite-tall-enough wand inside of the bottle, it was time to rinse off in the sprinkler, creating a whole new level of fun. Laying my belly on the wet grass, I would get eye level to the sprinkler then scream with delight as the water pressure tickled my freckle-kissed skin. I alternated between awkwardly jumping through the shooting water feeling like a ballerina and catching the shooting water in my mouth. After sunset, I spent that hour before bedtime collecting lighting bugs in a mayonnaise jar with holes poked through the lid. Catching the flickering lights was often a challenge, often inducing laughter brought from the tickling sensation of the fluttering bugs wiggling inside my cupped hands.

When I was old enough to cross the street without adult supervision, a good portion of summer days and nights were spent in taking part in constant activity with other kids on my block. It was during that time I learned about hand games and card games. I learned the pain that is inflicted when flinching prematurely during a game of slapises, and how much it hurt to be the table during the arm wrestling portion of a fierce game of Down By the Banks.

11223951_10155925962625063_5036220573801237829_n The soles of our flip flops were worn out from running during intense games of Freedom, and the only worry during a game of Red Rover was if our arm chain was strong enough as the biggest kid from the other team came charging forward. Head on collisions with each other to the point of needing ice packs were common while scrambling to catch a ball during a fierce game of Suey (or depending on your neighborhood, Wall Ball).


Every one of us has childhood summer memories that will be cherished long after growth spurts and puberty. And each generation can argue why their era was different and more preferred. Will the children of today one day reminisce about how summer of 2016 was spent searching for super imposed cartoons around their neighborhood while playing
Pokemon Go?

Perhaps my fellow millennials, especially those born around 1987-1992, and I experienced the gift of a unique hybrid summertime consisting of old-fashion fun along with technology available at the end of the 21st century. 10400480_43596165062_3566_nOur childhood summers felt endless with days blurring together because days were filled with every kind of activity imaginable. Outdoor freedom of hopping on bicycles without worrying about texting our parents to check in once arriving at our destination.

The ability to occasionally over-indulge on video games and cartoons, eventually boring ourselves to find another activity rather than having to be policed by screen time concerns. For a brief period in time in a pre-9/11 and texting world but post-dial up households and Gameboy systems, my generation was made of the children that straddle this brief time, truly providing the best of both worlds.




Cartoon Bears and Dealing with 2016

Huff-Post-WTF-GOPThe world has become super depressing in recent months.

Not that this breaking news for anyone who happens to be plugged into any type of media these days.

Every few weeks the profile photos of my Facebook friends change to pay tribute to the latest victims of devastation. Outcries for justice, law reform and just civilized humanity continues to trickle into all walks of life.

As I’ve shared before, acts of terrorism and public shooting sprees have always been part of my life as I am the generation  that was in preschool during the Oklahoma  City bombing, elementary school during Columbine High and junior high during 9/11. But as a 27 year old living in a major US city, recent weeks watching the evening news as left me nauseous.


orlandoA man (if you can call him that) has become a presidential nominee because of support behind his asinine ideal of building a freaking wall to shut refugees out of our country, in addition to calling for a registry of an entire population based on religion. Apparently he and those who support him are totally oblivious of what happened during World War II.

Innocent young men are being tasered, beaten, assaulted and shot to death by those who are supposed to be charged with protecting our freedom through ensuring safety because of the color of their skin.

Police officers who drastically differ from their disgraceful rouge colleagues now face increased fear for their lives while enduring open hatred aimed towards them, serving as the scapegoat for the sins of dirty cops.  Memorials around blood stained sidewalks are the new norm serving as a reminder of the fate of so many who made the decision to leave their house at the same time a mentally unstable, terrorist acted on plans of destruction.

webarebears_promoWith the heaviness of the news being almost panic-attack inducing, I decided to take a break from the evening news. And what better way to break from reality for a brief moment is to watch the complete opposite? This past week while eating dinner, my television has kept me entertaining with the hijinks of We Bare Bears.

Incase you don’t have any kids or haven’t made a recent break from reality, the 30 minute cartoon on Cartoon Network is about three adopted brothers who are fond of the internet, eating and scheming.

cn_cee_we_bare_bears__cn3__wallpaper_01_1600x900As much as the word lol is written in my daily text messaging, nothing has made me actually laugh out loud like watching this show- so much so Annie Cat was quite startled (we need to work on her sense of humor).

In case you’re wondering, my favorite character is Ice Bear because of my soft spot for polar bears (stemming from the Coca Cola Christmas Bears), and how he refers to himself in third person. Also, he sleeps in the refrigerator and for most of my childhood I tried to come up with a workable way to figure out how to sleep in one without suffocating. Spoiler alert- the puzzle was never solved.
tri-movie-postersDuring the 30s and 40s movies, especially cartoons, were massively popular because of their cheap ability to allow people to escape war and poverty plaguing the world. And while the movie theater has become a site of mass murders, the concept of becoming lost in a clear-cut world for a bit of time still remains therapeutic almost a century later.  

As an active adult who is plugged into to social media and the real world, a full escape from reality would never happen. Besides, in order to be part of the solution there cannot be retreating and avoidance. However for a brief hour each day while decompressing after work and everyday human-being stressors of the 21st century, We Bare Bears is unexpected soul food.

And Somehow It’s July 5th

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Somehow it’s July 5th and my desk calendar is still on April. This pretty much sums up my frame of mind while trying to figure out what the hell has been going on over the past few months. Winter felt as if it was going to be around forever and now Philadelphia is in the middle of a heat wave.

In between the madness of starting spring by moving into a new apartment, then trying to juggle filming for my freelance project on top of a full time job, capped off by the abrupt hospice/death of my grandmother at the end of the season, summer kind of just appeared.

Honestly, there hasn’t been any exciting plans so far besides the Weezer concert I’m attending tonight (my first concert in three years) and writing. Actually, the main priority for summer 2016 is getting the first draft of my book completed by the end of season. While I’ve been dabbling with writing the book for over a year and half now, over the past two months my commitment to seeing it through with a deadline is has materialized.

13621465_10157017988190063_1506263234_oMaybe it is because I am now closer to 30 than ever before, or that as a writer who has been fortunate enough to be published in a variety of places, there is something inside me that is craving to dive deeper into my storytelling ability. And the fact that I was at Barnes and Nobles the a few months ago and became unexplainably furious to see that Snookie had a book featured in the New York Times Best Sellers section, and I did not.

Despite my silly notion that my brain should be able to write and create quality content at least 17 hours each day, it cannot. Between growing in my abilities as the Digital Content Program Specialist at work, which has been exciting and rewarding, while working on my first (and highest paying) video project as a side hustle- writing for my book has been increasingly hard to manage.

But with the filming complete for the side hustle video (cannot wait to share it on here when it is live), my free time outside of the 9-5 has been redirected to sitting down with my Google Doc and typing. Some days my hands cannot keep up with the thoughts and emotions tumbling out of my head and it is a struggle to get it all down on paper.

Other days it is a struggle to lift up my fingers to write a complete sentence that has an ounce of redeemable quality. But recently, I have made myself slodge through the heaviness of my thoughts and the clumsiness of my fingers to get through the other side of writer’s block. At the moment, my manuscript has 60,000 words that will be become my first book- which is even bizarre to type.

In order to continue to gain momentum and to organize the mammoth of words that have been strung together in my Google Doc, I enlisted the help of Julie Lenard, from The Storyologist. When I attended as session Julie ran at the PHL Blogger Conference back in April, the notion of a writing coach become appealing.

13588799_10157017988140063_1651447305_oAfter several emails and a meeting, we decided to work together to help reach my goal. I’ll eventually go into more detail of how a writing coach has helped me organize my thoughts, and push myself to write topics that may not come as easily to me as others. Also, for the first time in my personal life since I was a kid, I am being held accountable for doing something.

With work, it is easy for me to not drop the ball since my accountability impacts others in the office as well as my potential paycheck. For my own personal work, the only person that is affected by my lack of action is myself which never really matters to me most of the time. But with Julie, there are multiple check ins each week to see if I actually did my writing during the times we talked about, which she can go in and read in our shared Google Doc folder. Knowing that her email will be coming and that she is expecting to be reading new content, there is a refreshed sense of urgency of me committing to writing.

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Other Things That Have Happened So Far This Summer:

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5th Grade, Filming & Fancy Footwork

 

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A few hours each month I find myself transported back to a time warp, where the chairs are smaller, the voices squeaker and the smell much sweatier. The 5th grade has not changed much since I was in during the 1999-2000 school year. Except none of the kids are blasting Nsync, trading Pokemon card or watching As Told By Ginger.

12783571_10153937280828698_7589761860778496392_oThey may have iPads and texting- but never will they be able to bask in perfecting the ultimate AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) Away Message and profile.

Anyway- there is a reason I’m back in the classroom besides nostalgia. I have partnered with Dancing Classrooms Philly to create original video content to showcase the impact their programs has on middle school students.

As a non-profit organization, Dancing Classroom Philly brings dancing lessons into 5th and 8th grade classrooms through in-school residency programs twice a week for a duration of 2 1/2 months. And the students getting more great workout learning dances ranging from the waltz to the rumba. Social interactions including eye contact, emotional intelligence, body contact and teamwork are all part of the program’s educational experiencE. 

12768130_10153917210298698_4055273941892517245_o Through the grant funded by The Philadelphia Foundation, I have been able to capture the spring residencies of the students at four Philadelphia area schools. By creating exciting video projects, my goal is to show how Dancing Classrooms Philly helps build confidence and break down social barriers in our schools and communities- while spreading the word why #ArtEdWorks!

This has been such fun freelance project and really allows me to use a medium of storytelling that I haven’t been using lately. Here is a sneak peak of a bit of the footage I captured during the 1st week of lessons back in February!

 

 

Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

Lose Your Selfie in the Moment

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Why yes, I do own a #selfie sweatshirt.

Originally posted on Huffington Post on 9/29/15.

For anyone who knows me, their first reaction to this article is that it is being penned by a hypocrite. Rightfully so I am a notorious shutterbug and have been since the days of disposable cameras during junior high. At my parent’s house, there are shelves with albums containing photos taken from a mix of disposable cameras and early digital cameras. My photo obsession was escalated when I converted to the iPhone in 2011 and entered the wonderful world of selfies.

The iPhone may have helped me document the moment more efficiently, but not without consequences. Most noticeable, my borderline obsession of capturing the moment has caused me on multiple occasions to be removed from it instead. Perhaps this newfound awareness is divine inspiration because it became clear thanks to Pope Francis.

Watching the media coverage of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States began this reflection of ‘selfie’. Being in the presence of the most revered spiritual leaders in the world is one of those once in a lifetime, indelible moments, so it is understandable that there is a strong desire to capture the moment. While watching the Papal festivities on television, there were parts of the footage where Pope Francis could not be seen by the network camera because of the amount of tablets, phones and cameras being held up by spectators. Even priests that were seated by the alter snapped photos as Pope Francis performed the rites of the Catholic mass.

Keep in mind, these are the people who waited countless hours on their feet to meet Pope Francis, and are most likely devout members of the Catholic church, who believe He is the closest thing humans have to a Earthly connect to Jesus Christ (thank you 16 years of catholic school). After snapping one or two photos, the reverend thing would have been to put down the iWhatever and bask in the moment, especially if the leader of your faith is close enough to touch. All I could hear in my mind was the high pitched shrills from the outraged nuns that oversaw my catholic education, knowing that somewhere they are clicking their tongues in disapproval with their habitats all in a bunch. Continue reading

Participation Prize: How Childhood Praise Was Affecting My Career

elite daily

I am thrilled to share my first ever essay published on Elite Daily. It has been a goal of mine to craft a thoughtful piece that would resonate to the readers of the website! Below is the article, which you can find on Elite Daily! 

Earlier this month, during one of my weekly mental personal training sessions (aka therapy with Dr. R), I was completely agitated and unable to self-soothe. After taking on several new projects at work, I was frustrated and surprised by the feedback I was given. In the past three months, various new responsibilities were added to my position, and they forced me to adapt quickly in order to continue producing high-quality work.

But unlike the projects that I’m versed in producing (usually well before deadline with rave reviews), my execution wasn’t as graceful straight of the bat. But that particular week, not only were people not enthusiastic about my projects, they also offered me some fairly harsh criticisms. Granted, the revisions and feedback are productive as I try to refine new skills. But I found myself questioning why career growth is painful at times, as self-doubt and assumptions of inadequacy gnaw on my brain.

Relaying the situation to Dr. R, it was clear this had nothing to do with my happiness with my job, or relationships with my colleagues. It didn’t take long for me realize what was fueling this emotional tailspin. I recalled articles in The New York Times and The Washington Postabout the Participation Trophy Generation, which is another way of saying Millennials are constantly given praise just for participating in something. And their expectation is routine, detailed feedback.

By the end of my session, the clarity of what was bothering me perked up my mood, but I was left with the horrifying realization I was the one pouring gasoline over the lighter fluid. And it’s all because I was born in the spring of 1989.

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A Generation Desensitized to Gun Violence

NY-Daily-News-CoverAlong with rest of the world on August 26th, I stared at my computer screen horror watching the final minutes of 24-year-old Alison Parker. The flooding of dread that washed over me while viewing the footage was not due to the graphic nature of the actual shooting. It was from knowing that when Parker woke that morning, she had no idea that instead of covering the news she would be an international headline story in the worst way possible. Her cameraman Adam Ward most likely had ambitions of capturing a newsworthy moment that would go national. 72 hours ago, he would have laughed if someone told him that he would be a household name after being captured by a camera wielding gunman.

My arms were covered in goosebumps sparked by terror as Lester’s camera crept up to the trio filming the fluffy feature piece for WDBJ morning show. Similar to watching a horror movie, I wanted to yell at the oblivious bystanders that all hell was about to erupt. But the image that has caused me to lose sleep the past two nights was the look of horror on Alison’s face. The screenshot that appeared on the New York Daily News the day after, that depicted the split second of realization. The dumbfounded expression of in-studio Kimberly McBroom only added to the gut wrenching footage. The entire world would watch her reaction on replay, as she unexpectedly watched her coworkers be executed on live television.

With my social media newsfeed flooded with reactions of the shooting this week, it was clear that I was not the only person who was particularly struck by this tragedy. Yet as I was reading the outpouring of reactions to the New York Daily News cover story, something occurred to me. Why was it that only an act of gun violence involving an element of shock caught the attention of the masses? Personally, this was first time since the Massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 that an incident involving gun control struck a nerve. Again, it was the element of shock without a motive fueling the mass murders that left the nation outraged. In between the two massacres, there have been countless of public shootings that have been reported, but nothing registered as disturbing as the “typical public shootings’.  Perhaps the troubling situation is that myself, and others in my generation have become a bit desensitized to the mass public casualties. Just the fact that most people can understand the phrase ‘typical public shooting’ and the differentiation between massacres like Sandy Hook is troubling. Continue reading

Stroke Awareness Month Thoughts from the 25-Year-old Daughter of a Multiple Stroke Victim.

American-Stroke-Month-2-The irony that Stroke Awareness Month takes place during the same month as Mother’s Day is not lost on me. For the past ten years, the words ‘stroke’ and ‘mother’ has become intertwined. Both have played a substantial role in shaping the adult I have become. Coming to terms with my relationship with both is an ongoing struggle. This is not a Stroke Awareness Month essay to bring awareness to the importance of healthy habits and early detection to lower stroke risk. Nor is this an inspirational essay about life after stroke and the lessons it taught has my family. What I write is about the reality of being a 25-years-old daughter of a multiple stroke victim, and how the it can make the future a bit terrifying

Unpredictable. That sums up what I have learned from the decade long experience of being the daughter of a multiple stroke and heart attack survivor. The other day, the news segment on the car radio reminded me that May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Ironically, it was the moment I pulling into the driveway of my childhood home for my weekly visit. The place where my family and I were unwillingly indoctrinated into the world of stroke in 2004 when I was 15 years old. In this household, every month is Stroke Awareness Month.

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